All application and infrastructure elements such as servers, databases, and networking equipment create logs, metrics, and traces that hold important information about the health of the IT environment. As organizations grow in size and complexity, IT environments also expand, leading to exponential growth in their data volumes. Reliable management and real-time monitoring of logs, metrics, and traces help optimize this extended environment. It also provides insight into various performance issues and errors affecting various IT equipment and applications. Therefore, it allows you the opportunity to analyze past data, detect anomalies or outliers, and predict future trends.
Looking into the health of the system, identifying the application issues, tracking the complete end-to-end flow of a request, and dubbing issues require site reliability engineers. The goal of site reliability engineers is to maintain system resiliency by promoting the good health of ongoing operations and the availability of production systems. To do their job efficiently, these engineers rely on a number of Site Reliability Engineering Tools. However, not all organizations follow all the practices related to site reliability engineering. Therefore, site reliability engineers can have multiple roles and responsibilities. But the thing that remains common for all SRE engineers is the use of advanced tools to improve service delivery.
This blog will explore the top site reliability engineering tools available in the market and serve different use-cases in categories such as monitoring, communication, incident response, and configuration management.
APM or General Monitoring Tools
Application performance monitoring tools are important as these provide real-time performance insights allowing SRE engineers to react fast when issues arise. Observability is collecting raw, granular data necessary to gain an in-depth understanding of complex and distributed systems. APM tools provide visibility to work on issues to reduce mean time to resolution and restore applications to normal performance.
Datadog provides monitoring and observability service for servers, databases, tools, and services for cloud-scale applications through its SaaS-based data analytics platform. It allows you to keep track inside any stack, any app, at any scale, and anywhere. Even Gartner has recognized Datadog as the best APM tool in Gartner Magic Quadrant due to its impeccable features, including:
- See across systems, apps, and services
- Get full visibility into modern applications
- Analyze and explore log data in the context
- Proactively monitor your user experience
- Correlate frontend performance with business impact
- Visualize traffic flow in cloud-native environments
- Build real-time interactive dashboards
- Share what you saw, write what you did
- Get alerted on critical issues
- Instrument your apps, write new integrations
Kibana is a data visualization and exploration tool that SRE engineers use to develop a dashboard over log data collected in the ElasticSearch cluster. It is open-source and highly popular for analyzing operational metrics and identifying security events. It serves many use cases such as security analytics, business analytics, uptime monitoring, geospatial analytics, etc. Kibana has strong community support and comes with many easy-to-use features.
- Elastic APM
- Compatible with all top public cloud providers, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud
- Role-based access control
- Creative canvas to illustrate the story of your data with logos, colors, and design elements
- Build alerts that trigger custom actions
- Interactive and intuitive dashboards that drive insight and action
3. New Relic
A cloud-based observability platform, New Relic is popular for tracking application performance and monitoring resource availability. It allows tracing of dependencies across distributed applications, helps detect anomalies, reduces latency, and squashes errors to support the customer experience from a single platform. It enables SRE engineers to improve productivity, reduce costly downtime and ensure high-performance applications. Top features of New Relic include:
- Monitoring of entire stack in a snap
- Cross-platform observability experience to mitigate silos
- A secure, hyper-scalable data platform looking after the telemetry
- Pay as you go pricing
- Code-level visibility for faster troubleshooting
- Allows to plan proactive maintenance to improve system health
- Built to be integrated with current and future stacks for monitoring
Nagios is considered one of the best monitoring solutions and Site Reliability Engineering tools available in the market. Its core version is free to use and can be customized to get infrastructure monitored. Nagios is best to monitor infrastructure components such as applications, servers, operations systems, networks, and other services. It has got two types of concepts; agent-based and agentless monitoring. To monitor infrastructure during all phases of infrastructure processes, including build, release, and path, Nagios is considered. Some of the top features of infrastructure monitoring solutions include:
- Comprehensive Monitoring
- Visibility & Awareness
- Alerts and event handlers for problem remediation
- Proactive planning for capacity and scheduled downtime
- Integrations with third-party and comprehensive reporting
- Multi-tenant capabilities
- Extendable architecture
Prometheus is a metrics-based monitoring system. It is known for doing only one thing, and it does it well. Prometheus is simple yet has a powerful data model and a query language that lets you analyze how your applications and infrastructure are performing. It doesn’t try to solve problems outside of the metrics space, leaving those to other, more appropriate tools. Grafana is widely used with Prometheus to perform further analysis. Software like Kubernetes and Docker have already been integrated with Prometheus client libraries supporting almost all popular languages and runtimes.
- Precise alerting
- Simple operation
- Dimensional data
- Powerful queries
- Great visualization
- Efficient storage
- Supports many integrations and client libraries
Automated Incident Response Systems
An automated incident response system refers to the process and methodology used to implement a systemic and calibrated response to security breaches. It allows site reliability engineers to respond to incidents in real-time and troubleshoot issues if they occur to prevent business continuity. As the team deals with overwhelming levels of data when an alert is raised, they use some tools to identify triggers behind the incident and plan a complete postmortem to avoid future impact.
Grafana is popular for its powerful visualization and alerting mechanism. It is also considered among enterprises having specific privacy or security requirements and needing a self-managed environment. With Grafana as your SRE tool, you can create, explore and share all of your data through beautiful, flexible dashboards. It is one of the best observability tools to seamlessly switch between metrics, logs, and traces. Here are some of the top features of Grafana:
- Dashboard templating allows you to reuse it again for lots of different use-cases.
- Provisioning with a script allowing users and power users to customize the dashboard according to their needs
- Availability of custom plugins to extend Grafana usage with integrations with other tools, support different visualizations, and more.
- Alerting and alert hooks to be notified on other channels of communication.
- Monitoring your monitoring as Grafana supports this with an enterprise version
As the first thing PagerDuty mentioned on its website is “Uptime is Money”, they have built their SaaS-based platform that empowers developers, DevOps, IT operations, and business leaders all together for better digital operations, faster issue resolutions, and keeping business always on for its users. Being incident response management software, PagerDuty supports real-time operations by integrating machine data & human intelligence to improve visibility & agility across organizations.
- Scheduling & Automated Escalations
- Event Grouping & Enrichment
- Enterprise-Grade Security & Controls
- System & User Reporting
- Mobile Incident Management
- Real-Time Collaboration
- Reliable & Rich Alerting
- Always-On, Guaranteed Delivery
- Service Grouping
8. VictorOps (Splunk On-Call)
VictorOps, now named “Splunk On-Call” is a real-time incident management response platform. It is known for its exceptional incident response automation, such as vital incident response processes using escalation policies, war room, and post-incident reviews. Having all the things required at one platform, site reliability engineers easily focus on incident resolution and remediation processes.
Top features of Splunk On-Call include:
- API and Webhooks
- Delivery Insights
- Runbooks and Graphs
- On-Call Schedules
- Live Call Routing
- Noise Suppression
- Native apps for both iOS and Android
OpsGenie is a cloud-based incident response solution provided by Atlassian. It provides reliable alerts, on-call schedule management, and escalations support. It notifies authoritative people directly through email, SMS, phone call, and even with push notifications on both android and ios devices. The platform includes an analytics module that can help you track incident response metrics and team productivity. OpsGenie empowers site reliability engineers to plan for service disruptions and stay in control during incidents with the following features:
- Actionable & reliable alerting
- Easy on-call management
- Advanced Reporting & Analytics
- Post-incident analysis reporting
- Service aware incident management
- Effective communications and collaboration
Configuration Management Tools
Site reliability engineers use configuration management tools to keep track of changes to applications and infrastructure resources for faster application delivery. However, they employ multiple tools in their tool bucket to meet different requirements of the project. The widely adopted tools worldwide include:
Terraform is an open-source infrastructure as code software by HashiCorp. It allows users to safely and predictably create, change, and improve infrastructure by provisioning both low-level components, such as storage and networking, and high-level components, like DNS entries, and SaaS features. It uses declarative templates to automate the provisioning of any infrastructure resource, including virtual machines, applications, and Kubernetes clusters on both on-premises or in public cloud environments.
Terraform is one of the widely adopted Infrastructure As Code tools. You can learn more about the benefits of Terraform for IaC in cloud and DevOps and improve your day-to-day development and deployment processes.
Ansible is an IT automation engine widely adopted in project development to automate time-consuming, complex, and repetitive tasks. It uses YAML configuration files to define roles and tasks and orchestrate their execution in a specified order across multiple infrastructure components. Ansible uses SSH keys to connect to relevant machines and runs the playbook defined in the YAML files. Ansible is based on Python and allows customization based on varied use cases.
Being a configuration management and orchestration tool, SaltStack automates repetitive system administration and code deployment tasks, reducing manual process errors. Being SRE tool, it uses a different method of infrastructure automation since it deploys agents on compute notes and performs orchestration by pushing commands to the node. SaltStack scales up to thousands of nodes with very low overhead.
Site reliability engineering tools enable enterprises to create and support scalable and highly reliable software systems. SRE is significant in organizations that have jumped to cloud-native applications and distributed computing. By using the right tool and employing them in the right process, it is possible for organizations to perform preventive maintenance and keep the cloud infrastructure always up.
If you are not sure why preventive maintenance is important for your resources deployed in the cloud, read our blog posts explaining preventive maintenance for networks and services and its importance in Site Reliability Engineering.